Kent County has long been a model in planning and land use and our landscape and quality of life reflects those wise and educated decisions. On Tuesday, June 13 at 10 am, the County Commissioners will hold a hearing on a Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) to raise the height of buildings in the 301 corridor that could flush all that good work down the drain.
What has yet to be determined is why the County Commissioners put forth this piecemeal change in the first place. Mr. Fithian proclaimed during his campaign that “good things are coming to Millington that I think you will all like.” However, the town of Millington submitted a letter to the Planning Commission opposing the height increase in the 301 corridor.
There is no actual project that would show what this 60” structure would look like or contain. Also missing is a traffic study because you cannot conduct a traffic study without a site plan and you cannot have a site plan without a project.
The Planning Director determined that the ZTA complied with the Comprehensive Plan because it was Economic Development. However, he neglected to consider the equally important priorities of quality of life of the citizens, protecting the 301 corridor as a gateway to Kent County and ensuring that new development enhances the designated growth area’s character and responsible stewardship of our lands and waters. In fact, the Comprehensive Plan specifically states that “Improvements to US 301 place the County in a perilous position that is detrimental to the County’s Vision.”
The Planning Commission after much discussion about the process of making this change via a text amendment rather than through the ongoing Comprehensive Rezoning process, voted 5 to 1 to give an unfavorable recommendation to the County Commissioners.
It is clear that special treatment is being given to one individual, Russ Richardson, who owns the only property that could benefit from this height increase. The ZTA will effectively supersede the Comprehensive Plan and any critical oversight of future and as of now, speculative development. It looks like the County has designed a sweetheart deal for Mr. Richardson after he ran into opposition from the town of Millington.
The only chance we have to stop this catastrophic precedent setting and meritless ZTA is to SHOW UP at the hearing on June 13 at 10 am. There is absolutely no reason to supersede our zoning process and open the floodgates to unmitigated development. Rather, we should encourage our County Commissioners to take the time we have and invest in thoroughly researching the impacts warehouse development has had on communities that have allowed their proliferation. What can be learned from their mistakes and how can we maximize revenue while minimizing long term liabilities such as traffic, pollution, blight and infrastructure costs? Ignorance is no protection from consequences.